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Recipes and Stories

29 November 2017: Holiday Entertaining 101—Prosciutto-Wrapped Pork Tenderloins

Prosciutto-Wrapped Pork Tenderloin is impressive and yet easy enough for novice or occasional cooks.

As the last of the Thanksgiving leftovers disappear from our refrigerators and pantries, it suddenly seems that what’s left of the year is hurtling away as if it has been greased by turkey fat. Not only is the daylight rapidly dwindling to what has been called “the crowning of the year,” we’re ushering in our biggest—and longest—season of feasting.

Unfortunately, for all too many, it’s also the most frantic. People who never entertain suddenly start knocking themselves out to do so—dusting off the dining table, digging out holiday china, polishing Grandma’s silver. Folks who never bake and cook will actually open cookbooks, pore over cooking magazines, and tie on aprons they’ve not worn since last December.

If you’re one of those people, it’s probably not helpful to point out that this would all seem a lot less overwhelming and stressful if you just did it more often. Still, that might be something to think about adding to your new year’s resolutions.

Meanwhile, here’s a little advice that’s immediately useful: forget about using your holiday entertaining to improve your business prospects, pay back a year of social obligations, and placate relatives you don’t even like. This is a time to be with people you love and to reach out to the lonely and wounded people in your life who need to know they’re loved.

When you do gather those folks around your table, instead of trying to impress with volume, focus on being bountiful. What I mean by that is it’s better to offer a few dishes that you know you can handle, preparing them carefully and presenting them in generous portions, than to over-reach with a lot of different things that might be beyond your ability.

In short, if you never cook, this is not the time to try to tackle Beef Wellington for fifty people.

With that in mind, here’s a lovely main dish that’s simple enough for even a novice cook but fancy enough to impress without fail. The only tricky thing is the prosciutto wrapping. If you really find that complicated, then keep everything else that you offer simple.

Prosciutto-Wrapped Pork Tenderloins

Pork tenderloins are the same cut as beef filet, but are a lot more affordable when there’s a crowd to feed. Just like their bovine counterpart, they’re lean and always tender, but also the least flavorful part of the animal. They’re also prone to be dry when mishandled. These shortcomings are easily corrected by simply wrapping them with prosciutto, which coaxes out and enhances its natural flavor and helps keep it from drying out should it be left in the oven a bit too long.

Serves 6-8

1 pair pork tenderloins, about 2-to-2½ pounds
Olive oil
Whole black pepper in a mill
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
3 large cloves garlic, finely minced
10-12 very thin slices Italian prosciutto
1 cup dry white vermouth
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 lemons, each cut into 8 wedges

1. Trim the tenderloins as follows: Remove excess fat with a sharp knife or kitchen scissors, and (if it hasn’t already been removed in the butchering) pull away the fine film-like membrane. On one side is a wide strip of iridescent, stringy connective tissue that connects the muscle to the bones. Remove it by slipping a sharp, thin knife just underneath it, then cut it away in strips. Many use a filet knife for this job, but I like a hawk-beak-shaped “tourné” knife.

2. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat it to 425° F. Rub the tenderloins lightly with oil. Sprinkle the entire surface with pepper, rosemary and garlic, and pat it in. Wrap them with prosciutto, completely covering them, and secure it in place by tying it with twine.

3. Rub a roasting pan with oil, put in the tenderloins, and drizzle them with oil. Roast 20 minutes and reduce the heat to 350 degrees, then roast until the meat reaches desired internal temperature, around 135 degrees for medium (it will continue cooking as it rests), about 15-20 minutes longer.

4. Remove the tenderloins to a platter, loosely cover with foil, and let them rest 15 minutes. Put the roasting pan over direct medium heat, and the vermouth, and bring it boil, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan. Boil until it’s reduced by half and lightly thickened. Add any accumulated juices from the platter, let it get hot again, and turn off heat. Swirl or whisk in the butter (a flat whisk is best for this). Pour the gravy into a warm bowl or sauceboat. Thinly slice the tenderloins, garnish with lemons, and serve with the sauce passed separately.

Adapted from Ham: A Savor the South Cookbook (University of North Carolina Press), copyright 2017 by Damon Lee Fowler. All rights reserved.

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